N.C. Libraries, IT Agency Test Wi-Fi Hot Spots for Students

The program is funded by a $250,000 two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which is designed to equip local libraries to lead their communities in closing the homework gap.

by News Staff, The Robesonian / March 12, 2019

(TNS) — The State Library of North Carolina and the Broadband Infrastructure Office of the North Carolina Department of Information Technology recently launched a new partner program with the Robeson County Public Library and the Public Schools of Robeson County.

“I am looking forward to strengthening our partnership with the Public Schools of Robeson County, in hopes of expanding future collaborations that will benefit students and families,” said Katie Fountain, director of the Robeson County Public Library. “Many public libraries across the country are implementing hot spot lending. Participating in this pilot will give our public library administration a chance to experience lending this much-needed technology and evaluate ways to expand our offerings outside of the pilot.”

The grant will allow the Robeson County Public Library to deliver digital literacy training to program participants, hire a digital inclusion librarian to implement the project and purchase Wi-Fi hot spot devices for up to 35 K-12 households per partner county. The Wi-Fi hot spots will provide the at-home Internet access students need to complete homework assignments.

“Public libraries play an important role in bridging the digital divide and in supporting after-school and out-of-school learning,” said Susi Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “This project will develop and model practices that can strengthen public library and school library partnerships to help all students realize their potential, and these best practices will be shared to enhance library services to students facing the homework gap across the state and beyond.”

The program is funded by a $250,000, two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which is designed to equip local libraries to lead their communities in closing the homework gap. The homework gap occurs when students are assigned homework requiring access to the Internet, but do not have Internet access at home. The program kicked off Feb. 12 at Fairgrove Middle School in Fairmont.

“This fantastic opportunity is going to provide much-needed access to digital resources and support that our students would otherwise not be afforded at home,” Fairgrove Principal Hawhana Locklear said. “Many providers do not service this area, so our students are very fortunate to now have access. We are hopeful that this opportunity to both our students and their parents will increase their digital literacy through access to online resources and materials.”

“Having recently visited and distributed computers to schoolkids in Robeson County, I was struck by the tenacity and resilience of the community and its students,” said Eric Boyette, secretary of the state Department of Information Technology, “A program like this, that can help prepare a 21st-century workforce, and provide much-needed Internet access, is one we are thrilled to launch, perfect and eventually scale to other rural communities throughout North Carolina.”

Robeson County was selected as the first partner community where programming began on Feb. 12. Three additional partner communities will join the program in the fall. The two-year pilot program will culminate in the fall of 2020 with the publication of a toolkit, which libraries across the country can use to learn best practices for implementing similar programs in their community.

“I feel honored that Robeson County was selected as the pilot location and hope that this project will make the case for more libraries and school systems to work together to close the homework gap faced by so many students, especially in rural North Carolina,” Fountain said.

©2019 The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. 

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